Now that Brad Hill has officially announced that he is stepping down as head coach for the Kansas State Wildcats, AD Gene Taylor is on the hunt for a new manager for the BatCats. There are plenty of candidates, and some will not be available until their team is done in the postseason, so we may not hear a new coach named quickly. But we will still take a look at some of the names that may come up in the search, some more obvious than others (this is by no means an exhaustive list).
Probably the most obvious choice on the list is K-State grad Rob Vaughn. Vaughn is finishing up his first season as head coach at the University of Maryland, where the Terrapins have fallen a bit off from the regional appearance last season. That squad was led by former K-State assistant John Szefc, who left for Virginia Tech after then end of the 2017 season. Vaughn played for K-State from 2006-2009, and started at catcher during AJ Morris’s Big 12 Pitcher of the Year 2009 season. Vaughn got his start in coaching at K-State under Brad Hill for the 2011 season as a volunteer assistant, before joining Szecf in Maryland in 2013.
Sawyers has twice been Brad Hill’s top assistant at K-State, in 2009-10 and 2015-16. Sawyers has spent the last two seasons as the head coach at SE Missouri St, with a current overall record of 50-52. While at K-State, Sawyers was responsible for recruiting many of the players that turned into the 2013 Big 12 Championship squad, and his return years of 2015 and 2016 marked the last two years that K-State made the Big 12 Tournament. Sawyers may be struggling a bit at SEMO, but the Redhawks are not exactly known as a hotbed of baseball even though he did take over a program that had just won three-straight OVC regular season titles under Steve Bieser, who left to take over the reigns at the University of Missouri.
Mitch Gaspard is the current associate head coach at K-State after joining the program in 2017 after a seven year run as head coach at the University of Alabama. While the head man for the Tide, Gaspard took the team to four NCAA Regionals and one Super Regional, which came during his first season at the helm. Gaspard resigned from his post after two seasons of missing the NCAA postseason, however in his seven seasons only one year, his third, did the Tide fail to finish with at least 30 wins and above .500 overall. Bama fans were not unhappy to see Gaspard go, and his time in Manhattan hasn’t exactly seen the best baseball.
Vilade is currently an assistant coach, and the recruiting coordinator, for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Vilade has spent time as head coach at two different schools in Texas, before taking a swing through the professional coaching ranks. Between his 11 season at the University of Dallas and the University of Texas at Tyler, Vilade compiled a 348-177 record, and his career wining percentage of .748 still ranks 19th in NCAA history. Vilade may be ready to get back into a head coaching gig after spending the last few seasons as an assistant.
Saarloos has spent the last six seasons as assistant coach/pitching coach for the TCU Horned Frogs. In 2016, Saarloos earned the D1Baseball.com National Assistant Coach of the Year award for his efforts with TCU’s pitching staff — a staff that has been one of the best in the nation during his time in Ft. Worth. The California native spent several years pitching in the majors after an All-American career at Cal State Fullerton before returning to his Alma Mater to start his coaching career. Saarloos has never helmed a program, but after spending six years learning from one of the best in Jim Schlossnagle, he should be ready for a promotion.
Reynolds pitched for Brad Hill from 1998-2000 at Central Missouri before spending a few years in the minor leagues. Reynolds started his coaching career in 2004, and served for a time as a volunteer assistant at K-State early in his career. Reynolds left in 2009 to join the staff at Evansville as an assistant before returning to K-State in 2011 to assume the role of assistant coach and pitching coach. Reynolds held that role until 2015, before transitioning to the other purple Wildcats at Northwestern and taking the title associate head coach.
K-State sure did well picking up a coaching from Central Missouri, why not try again? Crookes has been the head coach in Warrensburg since 2015, and has been on the staff since 2013. Crookes guided the program to a DII CWS appearance in 2016, and currently has the Mules sitting at 10th in the NCBWA rankings and 3rd in the NCAA regional rankings, and finished regular season in third place in the MIAA. Prior to UCM, Crookes spent the previous eight seasons as head coach of the Hutchinson CC Blue Dragons, where he still sits second on the all-time wins list at the school.
Speaking of the MIAA, the team that finished in a tie for first place is Central Oklahoma. HC John Martin has been in Edmond for three seasons now, and last season brought UCO back to the NCAA DII post season for the first time since 2006. His first two seasons UCO went 67-43-1, but Martin has steered the Bronchos to a current record of 33-18, 25-11 in conference, and brought home the first conference title since 2007, and the first for the Bronchos as part of the MIAA. Martin is a native of Kansas City, MO, and played at Hutch CC and Emporia State, leading the Hornets to the DII CWS his senior year, before being selected in the 24th round by the LA Dodgers in 2006. His coaching career started at ESU, before taking the top spot at Coffeyville (KS) CC in 2011. He was also named National Baseball Congress Manager of the Year in 2010 after leading the Liberal Bee Jays to a 42-13 record and the NBC championship.
Kangas is currently assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Keiser University in West Palm Beach, FL. Kangas served as a volunteer assistant for the Wildcats from 2013-2016 before heading to Florida, primarily working with the outfielders and assisting with hitters. The biggest knock against Kangas is that he has never held a head coaching position, and his current posting is in the NAIA.
Kivett is best remembered by K-State fans for his stellar junior season in 2013, where he was named All-Big 12 Player of the Year, and his spurning of a high MLB draft selection to return for his senior season in 2014. Kivett spent 2015-2017 playing around the minor leagues, before joining Tony Vitello’s new staff at Tennessee for the 2017-18 season. Kivett is currently serving as a volunteer assistant for the Vols, and while it may be a stretch for Kivett to come back as HC, he might find a spot as a assistant coach for the new top man.